April 6, 2011 — Illinois pharmacies cannot be required to dispense emergency contraception, Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled Tuesday, AP/Chicago Tribune reports (O'Connor, AP/Chicago Tribune, 4/5). Belz ruled that the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act and the First Amendment protect pharmacies and pharmacists who refuse to perform services on moral grounds.
In the ruling, Belz wrote that the state provided "no evidence of a single person who ever was unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection. ... Nor did the government provide any evidence that anyone was having difficulties finding willing sellers of over-the-counter Plan B, either at pharmacies or over the Internet."
The decision struck down a state rule, put in place six years ago, that required Illinois pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception. The rule was enacted in 2005 after state officials received complaints that some pharmacists were refusing to fill valid prescriptions of emergency contraception. The case was brought by two pharmacy owners who objected to providing EC based on their religious beliefs. Belz did not yet extend the ruling to apply to all pharmacies in the state (Olsen, State Journal-Register, 4/5).
State Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) will appeal the ruling, according to spokesperson Natalie Bauer. "There is a compelling need for emergency contraceptives to be available at all licensed pharmacies in Illinois" Bauer said (AP/Chicago Tribune, 4/5).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
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